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Old 02-14-2021, 04:12 PM   #3
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 5,296
Continued from above...

The carry from Clear Pond to Bog Lake was also short enough that I had no qualms about resorting to several trips. It follows a portion of another private road for a short stretch before turning off and descending down to a large clearing on Bog Lake- the site of another former hunting camp. The DEC maps for this area show a designated tent site here- and it's clear that folks do occasionally camp in the clearing where the hunting camp once stood. FWIW, I also thought that this clearing was meant to be the designated site despite missing a "Camp Here" disc, but I found out after my trip that the actual designated site is located a bit further west down the shore- and is apparently a much nicer spot to camp to boot.

After a quick lunch on the shore of Bog Lake I was launching onto that body of water and paddling down the outlet towards Lows Lake.

Most maps mistakenly show the connection between Bog Lake and Lows Lake as a broad body of water- in reality it is a narrow and marshy stream, a bit meandering (although not nearly as meandering as Shingle Shanty Brook). I'm not sure how that error came to be or why it continues to persist- if you compare maps with aerial photos it is pretty obvious that the water level has never been high enough for the outlet to be as wide as depicted.

With my arrival at the causeway that carries the old (and long abandoned) logging road across the outlet of Bog Lake I was re-entering somewhat familiar terrain. 10 years prior, I had spent a week on Low's Lake, visiting every single designated tent site and collecting data about camping impacts to aid in a research project. That week of data collection in turn would facilitate the capstone project for my professional GIS certificate, and furthermore would play the primary inspiration in what eventually became my Master's thesis.

I remembered there being a designated tent site on the west end of this causeway (Lows Lake site #37), and that from the tent site it was possible to follow the old logging road a short distance to a pine plantation set back further in the woods. I hopped out, and quickly found the tent site, which was as a I remembered it- a large clearing with sandy soils that appeared to have once been a log landing. It was also absolutely swarmed with deer flies. The old road had grown in noticeably since my prior visit but I was able to also find the pine plantation without too much difficulty.

From the old causeway the outlet of Bog Lake gradually widens as you approach Lows Lake itself. Soon I was passing site #38 to my right, and approaching the main body of water. Grass Pond Mountain was visible across the lake, and I could see a number of boats out and about. Some of the campsites that were within view were also clearly occupied, and I was glad that I'd put in the effort to get to Lows early in the afternoon, as it appeared likely that I'd again be putting forth extra effort to find an open site.

I cut around the impressive floating bog mat lodged in the lake and turned northwest to cross the main body of water. My goal for the night was one of the sites up on Grass Pond- an adjacent body of water connected to Lows Lake via another broad channel. I've camped twice previously at Grass Pond- once during the aforementioned week long Lows paddling trip, and once on a late autumn backpacking trip where I hiked in from the north by way of Sucker Brook and Chair Rock Flow. To date, Grass Pond is one of my favorite spots I've ever camped in the Adirondacks and I was looking forward to (hopefully) another night camped there.

I was a bit surprised when I pulled up to site #29 and found it unoccupied. This is a larger site, with no short amount of flat ground, also apparently once the location of a former hunting camp pre-dating state acquisition of the land. I was tempted to claim the site and set up camp then and their, but I'd also remembered that site #31, further up on Grass Pond proper, was a nice one situated on a pine covered knoll overlooking the pond. I figured I was close enough to at least take a quick gander at that site, and if it (and the others at Grass Pond) were occupied I could scoot back to site #29 quick enough before anyone else was likely to claim it.

As I paddled into Grass Pond it soon became clear that my fears were misplaced. The pond was deserted- not a soul in site, and each of the four campsites there was open. After the apparent hustle and bustle on the main body of Lows Lake itself (and the weeknight crowds I'd witnessed the previous evening at Lake Lila) I was a bit shocked to fine no one at all set up on Grass Pond. In retrospect I think Grass Pond is maybe just a bit too far of a paddle for most visitors to the area- the main body of Lows itself is the better part of a full day's paddle in itself from the put in at the Lower Dam, and Lows itself is also host to a number of simply phenomenal sites. Fine by me, of course, if it helps preserve the solitude of Grass Pond.

I was settled in to site #31 by 3:30. My early arrival allowed me to spend a relaxing afternoon in camp, hanging out and ready by the water while a small smudge fire kept the bugs at bay. I saw no one else all afternoon, save for a solo paddler who showed up, paddled a quick loop around the pond, and had disappeared back towards Lows Lake within 15 minutes of their arrival. As the afternoon waned and dusk approached, the skies grew hazier and hazier. By the time I turned in for the night, it was apparent that storms were not far off.

Saturday showed up with those storms hot on the heels of sunrise, and several bands of storms passed through during the morning, with periods of heavy rain and some thunder and lightning. My traverse from Little Tupper to Lila in a single day had put me ahead of schedule, so I was perfectly content to spend the morning reading under my tarp- especially since I had no desire to be out on the water in thunder and lightning.

Early in the afternoon, the last band of storms passed through and blue skies started to open overhead. By then I'd more or less resigned myself to spending a second night camped at Grass Pond (without complaint, of course). But the nicer weather appeared likely to hold- so I decided to make a break for it and paddle on at least as far as the head of Lows Lake. The lengthy Oswegatchie Headwaters carry was certainly on my mind as I'd be tackling it the next day no matter what- and I figured that if I could do it earlier in the day I'd probably be glad that I did.

I had camp broken down in record time and was soon making my way back down Grass Pond and up Lows Lake towards the beginning of the carry to Big Deer Pond. For some reason the numbered Oswegatchie River designated tent sites start with site #1 on the west end of Lows Lake- and the site was unoccupied. I briefly contemplated staying here but the good weather was holding- and besides, this site was set back from the water and getting no breeze, and the deer flies and mosquitoes were pretty bad here also. I decided to haul everything over the portage to Big Deer Pond and camp there for the night at tent site #2.

Site #2 at Big Deer Pond clearly gets very, very little use- I can say without exaggeration that it gets maybe 1 or 2 groups using it a year at most. At some point, eons ago, someone had built a few benches using fallen logs, but the benches were pretty rotten. More recently in history, mere millennia ago, a tree had fallen across the site, rendering a good chunk of it unusable. The site is also flat but not very level, with a steady slope down towards the pond itself- and furthermore, the site is right smack in the middle of the marked hiking trail around the pond. Apparently this is not the original site #2- rather, the OG site is currently underwater, thanks to the industrious resident beaver population at Big Deer Pond.

(Just before arriving at Big Deer Pond, the portage trail from Lows crests a low hill. I didn't look but it appeared that if you followed the broad ridge of this hill north, there would be good options for tenting on level ground in open forest, and in compliance with the 150 foot rule. Honestly, this would probably be a nicer spot than the designated tent site itself.)

There was a decent breeze blowing here and no bugs at least, so with some effort I figured out a way to pitch my tarp so that I'd lie across the grade somewhat. As I was putting the finishing touches on dinner the breezes died down, and the resident mosquito population was quick to take advantage of the situation, so even with some daylight left I was soon climbing into my bug bivy for the night.

That night it stormed harder than anything I've ever experienced in over 1,000 nights spent camped in the backcountry in my life. I've been out in driving, torrential downpours before, but in the past they'd always let up after 20 minutes or maybe half an hour or so. This storm kept going like the energizer bunny- an absolutely heavy, soaking downpour that continued for hours. The rain on my tarp was so loud it was difficult to hear one's own thoughts, and before long there were rivulets of water streaming through the campsite.

The rain did eventually taper off to a light but steady drizzle as dawn approached, and I found myself breaking down camp under my tarp, which was the last part of my overnight setup to come down. Just as I was about to set out across Big Deer Pond the drizzle ceased, and while the clouds remained heavy overhead I could see sunlight trying peer through the cover on the horizon.

The paddle across Big Deer Pond went quickly, and within a few minutes I was unloading again at the far side and prepping for the great traverse to the Oswegatchie headwaters. This so-called headwaters portage would be the longest of my trip, at just over 2 miles. Given the remoteness of the terrain, I was expecting a somewhat brushy portage trail like I'd encountered throughout the rest of the trip, but to my surprise the trail was well maintained, with a wide and clear corridor the full way through. There is one part about 2/3rds of the way through where the outlet of Big Deer Pond is crossed on a beaver dam- here I did drop the canoe and carry gear across separately from the boat.

I was particularly excited to see the Oswegatchie mailbox again, a highlight I remembered from my previous backpacking foray into the area 9 years prior. Just past the afore-mentioned beaver dam, a full sized metal mailbox sits alongside the portage trail. Inside is a log book for groups passing by to sign.

It took me about an hour and a half to finish the portage at a steady but not particularly fast pace. Portage-trail was cursing my decision by the end to make the trip in one go- but post-portage trail me was pretty happy I'd chosen to do so.

Prior to setting out on the river, I took the time to check out the two designated tent sites at the west end of the portage trail. Site #3 is right off the portage trail, in a stand of hardwoods. Site #4 isn't super obvious at first; if you follow a path downstream along the river for about 100 feet you'll find it in an open clearing surrounded by evergreens. Both were ok sites, nice enough but nothing to write home about.

The Oswegatchie River was overladen with runoff from the previous nights heavy rain. In fact, it was soon obvious that the heavy downpours were a boon in disguise- before long, I was passing beaver dam after beaver dam, submerged deep beneath the surface of the river. I've heard that the Oswegatchie beaver dams can be quite a hindrance- there is an estimated 70 of them between the headwaters portage and Inlet, and to travel the river by canoe during normal water levels demands hauling canoes over nearly every single one of them. A few extended family members took an overnight up the Oswegatchie a while back, and in the years since all my mother can talk about from that trip is how much she detested the beaver dams.

In contrast, I was only forced to exit the canoe a total of 3 times along the entire stretch of the river- once for a beaver dam, once for a strainer across the river, and once for the short portage around High Falls. It certainly made the wet feet I'd gained from the water running under my tarp during the night before more than worth it.

The water was also moving at a good clip in spots. While the river was never really technically challenging, I did find myself keeping an eye peeled for the occasional submerged rocks that were lurking just beneath the surface of the dark water.

Continued in next post...
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